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Cover Story : A Guilty Pleasure

August 05, 1994|DAVID E. BRADY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jonah Weiland calls it an addiction.

He spends nearly $200 on his habit each month, making weekly visits to a Canoga Park store for more.

His vice? Comic books.

The 22-year-old Northridge resident got hooked on the multicolor fantasies nearly nine years ago while a freshman in high school, encouraged by friends and an English teacher who taught comics as literature.

Those friends have moved on, but the addiction remains.

He started small, buying a few titles at first, but as his income grew, so did his reading list. As a sound engineer for radio station KFI-AM 640 in Los Angeles, he's now able to afford more than 100 titles a month.

"My closet's been taken over by them," he admits.

Still, he remembers his first--a 1986 issue of "Action Comics" that marked Superman's last hurrah before a radical make-over.

Todd Chodorow of Reseda, one of Weiland's comics-buying friends, says that while he doesn't buy as many titles, he does understand the addiction.

"I actually used to spend that much," the 26-year-old psychology graduate student says. "It's a bit excessive."

Both say they seek out titles for the writing, although their tastes differ slightly. Chodorow cites comics such as "Groo the Wanderer" and "Next Men" as favorites, while Weiland names "Bone" and "Sandman" as his picks.

"I will read a poorly drawn comic if it's well-written," Weiland says. "I will drop a poorly written comic in a second."

Weiland has an enthusiastic booster in his mother, Sue, who agrees that comics have more to offer than some parents think.

"They really are very well-written," she says. "A lot of kids in this day and age don't have as much interest in reading. I think anything that encourages kids to read helps a lot."

Although many investors buy "hot" comics simply as a fast-buck investment, Weiland only purchases titles he intends to read--a daunting task given the amount he brings home each week from Pee Wee Comics in Canoga Park.

"I get behind," he admits, indicating a months-old pile of comics in a bedroom at his parents' home.

Weiland estimates that he's amassed 6,000 to 7,000 comics in his short time as a collector, most protected in plastic bags and boxes and indexed via computer.

"I want to keep them for the future, maybe so that my kids can have them," he says.

Despite the amount of time and money invested in their habits, neither Weiland or Chodorow see themselves as "fanboys"--comics' nerd equivalent. "Mostly because I keep myself interested in a lot of things," Weiland says, naming science fiction, sports and news as his other passions.

However, Weiland does acknowledge that despite their increasing sophistication, comic books are still something of a guilty pleasure.

"It's all juvenile stuff that's fun to read and look back on," he says. "It is juvenile, but it's entertaining."

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